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How To Descend Like A Professional Cyclist | Ride Downhill Faster & Safer


(dramatic music) – You may have seen our
descending videos before. And those tips are still valid. Everyone assumes that to
be a pro at descending, you have to go as fast as possible, but there’s so much more
to it than just that. – Yeah, we know we should
be racing downhills, but that doesn’t mean we can’t
practice the basic principles of descending which will make
us more confident descenders. Thought I lost him. – [Man] First up is the
assessment of the road ahead. Observing where the road is
going, to be able to judge your speed around the corner,
you need to accurately asses where the road is heading. Which direction you need
to be preparing to turn, and how far you’ll need to lean, and ultimately how fast you will be able to navigate the corner. – [Man] Know where to break and how hard is critical to safely entering the corner on the right line. Is your braking zone on good
tarmac, how hard will you be on the breaks while they are slowing down, and do you need to modulate
the pressure applied based on the surface conditions? – Deciding on where the
exit of the corner is, is one of the most important
parts of judging your speed. If you can’t see far enough ahead, as you know what’s coming,
this is also known as the vanishing point and is crucial
because you need to be able to stop in that distance. – If the corner is tightening,
and you want to scrub some speed off, enter the
corner with a tightening of your line so you’ve got
a nice exit to the corner. On the other hand, if you’ve
got a fast flowing corner that opens up, this is the
perfect opportunity to go in wide and come out wide,
setting you up perfectly for the next corner. – If you do have a clear
line of sight, then great, go fast but stay safe. If, on the other hand, you
can quite see what’s around the corner, then keep in
mind that literally anything could be coming the other way. In the mountains especially,
coaches and delivery lorries are not an uncommon sight and
they take up the entire road. An obstruction mid corner
can result in a disaster if you’re not expecting it. Either a slam on or a
big swerve to avoid it. Either way, not ideal. You want to be able to preempt
a mid corner obstruction, by always expecting the unexpected. – [Man] The road service beneath you needs careful consideration. Not all asphalts are made
equally, they certainly don’t grip equally either. In the wet we all know we
need to use more caution, but even riding the shady side
of a hill will have less grip than the side that basks
in the sun all day long. – Does the road lean
into the corner with you, or does it in fact drop away off camber? If it does drop way off
camber, you cannot go anywhere near as fast, as you’ve
already got more of a lean angle on your tires than you otherwise do. A well cambered corner on
the other hand, is kind of unrivaled at how fast you can take it. It feels like the holy
grail of descending. – Now we’ve got observation
covered, the next golden rule is to never exceed your limit. Actually you want to ride
within 90 percent of your limit. This will make descending a
lot more fun and enjoyable. – You’ll be affording yourself
plenty of reaction time by giving yourself a 10 percent buffer. After all, imagine absolutely
pushing it on a descent and making one tiny mistake,
only one thing’s likely to happen and it’s gonna hurt. – [Man] How much of the road can I use? By now, having answered our
previous category of questions, you will have built up a
picture of how much of the road is available for safe use. You can only ride into what
you can see and you need to be able to stop if something is coming. – Another key aspect is
knowing that in the event of a puncture or a brake issue
that you can use the runoff, and you can do this by knowing
the descent and knowing the road you’re riding on. That was a close one. – All of these questions and observations are an ongoing process whilst
descending and they all will happen within hundredths of a second, but the more consciously
you ask yourself these questions, the quicker and
more confident the answers become, to the point that
you can completely switch off and enjoy the ride
safe in the knowledge that nothing can go wrong that
you don’t have an answer for. – [Man] So brake on time, keep
your weight over your tires, don’t hang off the side
of the bike, moto style, as we don’t have 200
kilograms beneath us so this isn’t really necessary. Instead, go for smooth,
relaxed and balanced movements on the bike. Sure, if you’re going fast,
you will feel like you’re throwing it from corner to
corner, but in reality you’re aiming to maintain a
good flow of the momentum from one corner to the next. Aim to get lower of the
bike and keep your weight centered between wheels. Don’t drag your brakes through the corners and certainly don’t
grab at them mid corner. Using all of the observation
techniques will really accentuate how you are able
to use your natural ability and convert that into speed. The actual physical control
of the bike will then take a very natural progression
in making you a lot faster. Pros are really good at assessing when to really push your limits, and when to back off and just ride tempo. – The same rules apply to descending. Whilst pros often do look pretty quick, there is a time and a place for it, and training is not one of them. There are no prizes for crashing when you’re out on your own. – No, and to be honest, pros
are so used to racing on closed roads and roads
they recce an awful lot. You don’t think Chris Froome
just chanced that epic descent a few years back, do you? – Good point. If you enjoyed this video
give us a big thumbs up, for more how tos click down here. Let’s go uh.
– Yeah, I mean we haven’t done it enough here,
– Quite right. – have we, so let’s hone our skills. – Go!

Yvette Parker

100 Comments

  1. FIRST VIEWER AND SECOND i think Liker Of The Video, i LOVE YOUR VIDEOS, i Learn Many Things about roadbiking.🤘🚴🏻

  2. Your Spandex bicyclist outfits are truly ridiculous and entirely impractical. I look like a Bedouin warrior on my bicycle in the summer time covered from head to toe. You will bleed to death landing on the pavement dressed like that.

  3. Tip: keep your shoulders, arms and hands relaxed. Stiff arms and a death grip on the bars won’t let the bike work. I sometimes “flap” my elbows to remind myself to keep my arms relaxed.

  4. How about counter weighing against the curve? And changing your body's center of gravity (moving torso and hips backwards?)

  5. always use glasses to protect your eyes. You won't like getting something in your eyes at high speed and crash

  6. This video will fit in with the other 8 videos you have about descending then?

  7. Thanks for another good video. I’m not sure why leaning to the side like on a motorbike isn’t recommended? Theoretically, the further into the turn you can get your body’s center of gravity the more upright you can keep the bike with better grip from the tires around the turn, therefore faster cornering.

  8. I think it's important to note that there are absolutely times where dragging brakes mid corner is okay and necessary. Conditions rarely occur where a tiny touch of the rear brake can result in disaster, and if it does your speed through the corner was far too great for the given conditions in the first place. I myself and many others I know suffered bad accidents from sticking hard to the rule of absolutely no brakes mid corner, which can kill you in a fast blind S- Turn. Also just one more reason why disc brakes are a great thing to consider, because you rarely have to be afraid to drag away! If i've said anything that anybody wants to dispute with some good science or experience, I'd absolutely love to hear it! Never want to lead my fellow riders astray like I've been in the past.

  9. Great video. I get to do very little descending (Winnipeg defines flat), so the rare time I get to do so, it scares me silly.

  10. After cycling a lot in winter and slipping out on ice, I find it so hard to trust the tyres for grip in good conditions which makes me really bad descender since I am afraid to corner really hard. duh.

  11. Compétence ( handling, vision and road knowledge ) lends to confidence. Reasoned confidence leads to proper competence.

  12. This is the one of the BEST if not the ABSOLUTE BEST video GCN has produced in quite a long time. Suggestion – For all of us who usually ride in country which are right hand v English left hand , the visual feel of reading the road and staying in safe lines is distorted for us in this excellent video. Suggest , seriously, you make a similar production with a right handed aspect.

  13. One of the hardest aspects of descending is knowing the grade as approaching it. If you have not ridden the descent a few times before, the change in grades can be treacherous. It is visually hard to discern if a road is changing from 3% to 5% to 7 % etc. That variable causes the gravity effect to shift dramatically. Speed and inertia can ratchet up quickly and braking distances must be adjusted immediately. There is no prize for crashing ever.

  14. To me the biggest difference was made by learning to distribute weight only between outer pedal and inner handle bar. Steering with the inner hand (even pushing down with it) makes fantastic difference compared to “steering” with both hands. Poor explanation, but when tried – all becomes clear…

  15. great tips thanks ! things that makes you go "i should know better before the crush" . wich is realy happed to most of us , right guys ?

  16. compliments for explaining this very well.
    One more issue however I guess would be helpful: do you need to put extra pressure on the outer pedal while cornering
    as this would put more pressure of the tyres on the road surface?

  17. Another tip I'd add, handy when riding a hire bike, is to try your brakes and try to assess tyres grip before the descent. There is no worse feeling than being unsure of brakes on an epic descent.

  18. Hiya guys, I have been out of action since November and can officially can get back on the bike as of friday. Any tips to get back to fulk fitness? Ive put on around a stone of weight. Thanks

  19. Been on very Windy and fast Ride Today and been asking myself: how to give correct Hand signs at high speed, very heavy Wind or even both? Even worse when you ride Deep Section wheels… any advice in regards to Safety?

  20. This was excellent, Hank and Chris, the video and the comments. And with so many of us riding smaller frames with long stems and long seat posts, I do think it is time to revisit your dropper post suggestion and investigation. Perhaps the tech has progressed to the point where it is even faster and safer to, shall we say, slam the saddle in the corners.

  21. the place where i descend has steep and sharp corners .. if you fall from there .. it is difficult to guess if someone survives if fell

  22. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Sure some people spend 1200 hours a year riding, but how much of that is actually descending mountain roads? Lucky to be even 50 I'd guess?

    Cyclists who ride motor bikes have a huge advantage here if they do mountain riding, as you spend much more time having to plan corners – going up or down. That 90% is so important for survival on a motor bike.

    Many cyclists pick racing lines when descending, which may be the fastest line in theory, but late apexing (only choosing an apex after corner exit is visible) is the safest way to descend, and fastest as you can get the line correct for the following turn.

  23. Guys I suggest you go and get yourselves registered for California Superbike School Lessons. It is for motorcycles but everything applies on bicycles. As an ex superbike school instructor I can tell you that even the guys on the video, who are pretty good, make some very obvious mistakes..

  24. I am always scared about descending
    I am always thinking about the worst possible things…
    Can you give me any helpful tips?
    When you are scared on the bike you cant enjoy Nothing

  25. I almost died once when the whole road ahead was occupied by a truck and a motorcycle. My brakes were not great at that time. But thanks to God, I survived.

  26. Hi great video. Can you tell me what a size medium frame is please?? Thank you

  27. Cheddar gorge should be made a toll road also the amount of people who use it as a race track makes it somewhere I’ll avoid in the summer unless it’s early morning,also beware early morning Gorge descents due to damp corners 😀👍🏻

  28. You mentioned about moto-style and said because you don't have the weight it's not necessary. However hanging off moto style has a lot to do with keeping the bike as upright as possible to maintain a larger contact patch. Wouldn't the same thing apply for road riding where leaning off and keeping the bike as upright as possible means you can enter faster because you still have a large contact patch? By comparison, it is better to lean a mountain bike instead of the body to get the side lugs into the ground which provide grip for them….but I've always been told this does not work well for road as you'll just wash out #askgcn

  29. You should add more stuff on descending in a bunch, especially at race pace where riders can carry dramatically different levels of momentum based on their body weight.

  30. Don't over take buses, coaches and Lorries etc on the descend's either especially on bends you can't see around.

  31. Excellent tips all solid except dragging rear brake saves more time in speed scrubbing than braking hard before a corner

  32. WHERE S YOUR GLOVES AND GLASSES?? ALSO what tires are best for size and type/brand ??

  33. The last tip was the best. Don't go balls to the wall on a descent you have never traveled. There is no telling what might surprise you.

  34. I was taught to position my hands on the drops when descending so you can throttle the brakes
    with greater accuracy.

  35. Why they ride without gloves? Arms suffer first in case of fall….

  36. How many downhill takes were there? Did you have to pedal uphill to retake each shot?

  37. i was in a group ride once going about 65kph and i was in front. a wasp somehow managed to land and stick to my lens and then crawl around the corner to the inside of my glasses , for shelter from the wind, i guess ! I looked up at the little fella and i am pretty sure he looked back at me. i slowly removed my glasses and the wind took him and we continued as if nothing had happened !

    another time at a cafe stop i was attacked by a wren who tried to take the croissant out of my mouth. i seem to attract things like this. i have been followed by circling birds of prey too, on long hot rides.

    always wear your shades . also i learned to keep my mouth shut on rides. we got a lot of bugs out here too.

  38. Make yourself comfortable riding on the drops, not only on descents…

  39. I had a cracking descent on cheddar, but always tend to chill near the bottom, as that hairpin turn is super sketchy. Know a guy who crashed down there. Luckily he was completely fine, but had to write off his bike 3:

  40. Braking? Front or back first? Just before corner or ok during? Relaxed arms? Weight forward or back tyre?

  41. My biggest problem is a lack of confidence in how far I can lean the bike so I am always scrubbing off a lot of speed before the corner. I guess I need more practice until I am eventually at 90 degrees on the ground 😀

  42. The old saying, descending and cornering confidence increases steadily until it suddenly drops!

  43. I've seen numerous videos now where Chris keeps his sunglasses on the back of his collar and if it doesn't cease I'm unsubscribing.

  44. If you're coming down fast to a steep hairpin bend and you're on the inner lane, DO NOT leave braking as late as possible like a formula 1 driver unless you know the roads very well and have utmost confidence in you brakes and tires. Pump the brakes to reduce speed early on and be careful of going too wide into to the oncoming lane. If there's a blind corner, you might as well be riding straight off a cliff, slow down beforehand if you don't know exactly what the corner radius is like.

  45. Descending is a serious business. It's important to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

  46. 1. Wear gloves.
    2. Hands in drops. On the hoods one good bump can jolt your hands off with an unhappy outcome. Besides, you can brake properly.
    3. Bum slightly off the seat. Ride don't sit. If your bum is firmly on the seat then one good bump can jolt you into the air and cause loss of control.
    4. Don't descend like a pro, unless you are.
    5. If you want to be fast then brake into the corner and pedal out.
    6. Commit. Half hearted cornering means only cornering half. Then crashing.
    7. Practice, and learn by following someone faster.
    8. Enjoy.

  47. God dammit. I never really rode a bike. I bought one when I was a kid just to play around in my yard. Never used it since then. Now, unfortunately, me, a novice biker is forced to take on the roads just to go places I must go because I have no other means of transport. Scared to death every time I have to get on the road.

  48. Firstly, where is that road? Looks a bit like the Northern Lakes, but I don't remember the tarmac being that good on the road I'm thinking of. Secondly, since a crash on the flat a couple of months ago, my descending has got so much worse. I try to go slower, and the brakes make the bike stand up, which makes me brake more, then the bike won't go round the corner etc. Miserable. Just hoping that some confidence comes back.

  49. Also, as a ex-motorbiker – remember that sometimes going round a corner puts your head on the wrong side of the road, just at wing mirror height.

  50. Guys next time you’re in California come descend Tuna Canyon with us – it’s been in a Rebull competition, would love to see you smash it!! I’d say it’s one of the worlds most challenging, beautiful, technical ones!

  51. Great to see Cheddar Gorge featuring. Fabulous climb – something I miss after moving away from the area.

  52. Great tips, and in the comments too. Now if there were just some hills here so I could try some of this. But its flat as a pancake in Houston TX. Our suffering come from heat, also known as poor man's altitude.

  53. Great Vid guys!! More stuff like that! Quick point: Always look ahead to the exit of the curve if you can see it as you enter the curve….bike will tend to go where you look…if you look straight thru an apex you might be heading out off road tangentially…youtube some of the videos where they show where F1 drivers look when entering a curve…

  54. Where you guys riding there? I believe I've seen that decent in other videos before like Si and Dan's descending with different stem lengths

  55. Sometimes its just better to go slow if you can't see, as in many parts of the world, impatient drivers will try to overtake other drivers and be on the wrong sie of the road even in blind bends. There also might rocks or tree falling.

  56. It's not just what's coming the other way, but also what's just sitting there, such as the huge cow sitting middle of the road with no inclination to move I found when descending from Lagos de Covadonga!

  57. Any thoughts on cornering with the inside knee against the top tube and extra lean angle?
    I use this technique on roads with good grip and adjust the tension against the top tube to correct my lean angle.
    I still use “inside knee out” on bad surfaces or rain/snow.

  58. Another thing that really helped me with descending that might not be as obvious: use your maps on your head unit to help you anticipate the radius of the turn coming up. Obviously use your discretion in looking down at the screen but, on an unfamiliar climb, being able to "see" turns before they come up really helps me figure how much braking/turning I'll need to do.

  59. Stay safe people! After cycling in Switzerland (amazing open descents where you can see miles ahead) and coming back to the uk made me reassess what safe descending means. If you can't see what's around the corner, forget going fast, just take it easy on the entrance with smooth braking and good balance and step on the gas when you can see ahead.

  60. Great training video! Not a confident descended, so all advice useful. Thanks!

  61. On roads I don't know if have the 3d map on my garmin showing so I get an idea of the layout of the road before I get to it just a glance here and there. With weight distribution it's good to unweight the saddle and drive your weight into the outside pedal, it drives the weight directly down on the tyre it gives loads more traction it's really quite hard to describe without diagrams and videos but if you look at the stance of a Downhill racer on a tight wet corner as they feed the bike into a corner. Also look at the arm position- outside elbow bent outwards and straight inside elbow driving downwards. Lower tyre pressures ie not rock 'ard and use quality rubber, cheap tyres tend to favour longevity over traction. The best cornering tyres i've used to date are vittoria corsa graphene g+, the sidewalls aren't that tough but you can hoon it round corners. I'm currently testing out the pirelli p zero and they've pretty damn good in the bends too both are noticeably better than the gp4000 2 tyres but the vittoria lifespan is a good 30% lower so I'd happily use it for racing but training nah save em for events.

  62. "Descend like a pro." Haha–they've gotten better but most motorcyclists giggle when watching protour racers descend. If you want to descend ~better~ than a pro, get a motorcycle and attend a few track-day sessions. Going 60 (100kph) downhill becomes pretty pedestrian after going 80 (130kph) all day long on mountain roads.

  63. Why is Chris leaning his bike but he is stopping upright? So he is going round a left corner and the bike is lent to the left but Chris is over the right hand side of the bike?

  64. Great location, I am afraid of going downhill but I would like to bike there.

  65. A few words on brake biasing would have been appreciated. Great video. Too bad I do most of my riding on the flattest of flat roads. That course looked amazing. #ROCKON

  66. Good film but sorry folks, you missed a lot of key things about reading the terrain and how vanishing points work.

  67. If you're not supposed to practice descending during training, how should u expect to do it well during a race?🤔

  68. As a motorcyclist I don't have any issues with the speed of descending, letting gravity take over, and making the tires work for me. I do however, have a huge uneasy feeling about the consequences of crashing without a full face helmet, boots, armored leather gloves, and an armored jacket and pants with abrasion resistant fabric, etc. You would have a good chance of walking away from a fall at speed with only minor injuries wearing all that as long as you don't hit anything. With cycling clothes though, good luck. It's gonna hurt.

  69. I just got a new bike with deep section wheels (62mm) and I’m finding it much more difficult to descend. Cross winds are difficult to navigate in general but fast descents are worse since you have the wind from increased speed and then if you’re taking a curve, you’re not sure how the wind is going to impact them. And tips or suggestions?

  70. Wish I'd watched this 2 weeks ago off camber + to fast = broken ribs and wrist

  71. I love to go as hard as I can on descents… well, except for when running my front wheel on a small stone while going fast on the curves. I hate that! 😆

  72. Great vid guys. Not only do you offer great cycling advice, but you also feature Sarah the illstrumentalist. So I get a nice suprise watching these vids.

  73. I must agree with couple of guys bellow. You really benefit from riding a motorcycle. There are a lot of great techniques you can apply on a bicycle and make your ride faster and safer – not only on the descent.

    1. use your body weight to your advantage. Do not push the bike underneath you like you did most of the time on the video since lean angle of the bike itself will be higher than your overall lean angle. Go with the bike and lean your upper body into the turn.
    2. Previous point makes means difference of your viewing range. To see more, leaning your upper body (head) into the turn is a no go if there are obstructions along the road. Yet, it can be reduced by the next point.
    3. Choose your riding line wisely. There are two basic types depending on your aim.
    3a. Racing line. You want to use your maximum speed, whole width of the road to reach the fastest time. It means to carry as much speed throughout the turn as possible.
    3b. Safe street line. You must take into account upcoming traffic and give yourself some margin for error, yours or anybody else's. That means not going into the turn half blind (like you would/could do with racing line) but turn AFTER you are sure you can turn. That means to turn WHEN you see the end of the turn. This safe line (and I teach my students this way) is to enter the turn widely and exit it narrowly. IOW from the outside to the inside. Example: in left hand turn, I keep to the right of my lane until I can see the end of the turn, then, I turn and preferably exit the turn in the left parts of my lane.
    4. Single turn vs. series of turns. You can use 3a style in any single turn if you can see where the road leads to after the turn. But what if there is the next turn with other direction too close you won't be able to get into the perfect entry line for the second turn?
    It is great to look at series of turn backwards. Split turns and series of turns with straights and look at it from the exiting line of the last turn backwards up to the entry line of the first turn.
    Yes, it is difficult since you usually can't see all those turns right form the start. There comes the point 3b. It is a bit slower than 3a but gives much more confidence.
    Of course, there are endless options between both options I wrote. It always is a combination of so many factors you can write a book about. But my points 3a and 3b are two reasonable borders to keep myself between. Maximum speed and maximum risk on one side, really safe but slower approach on the other.
    5. Trailbraking or dragging your brakes into the corner. It is possible if you won't exceed your grip level. Even after that you may slide a bit but keep going. It is better on a motorcycle, on a bicycle there is much finer line. But it is possible.
    6. Braking with your rear brake while leaned over. This technique scrubs off a bit of speed while making the bike lean a bit more into the turn. Be aware to do it with your front brake. Slight touch may do the same but increases the risk more than the rear brake. Braking hard with your front brake stands up your bike.
    7. One of the most important techniques is to turn faster. I mean how fast you put your bike into your desired lean angle, not the riding speed itself. Speed of turning influences your line. In basics, slow turn in means really wide arc while fast turn in creates much sharper arc thus allowing you to reach less lean angle for your speed or more speed for the same lean angle.
    8. Look ahead, scan your road. I guess it is implemented in going fast but it never hurts to repeat it one more time.
    9. It is good to reach level around 75% to learn something new. If I will go on my maximum, I put too much risk and I am not able to learn anything. Otherwise, bellow 75% I do not put much effort and some goes in vain.
    In other words, train on lower level than your maximum, it will give you some margin for error and ability to learn. Save maximum efforts for the decisive parts of racing (and from time to time during training in really controlled conditions).

  74. Had a tough time cycling up Cheddar Gorge with my '40s 5 speed bike but descending in the pouring rain with ancient Hiduminium brakes was far more scary!

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